Study: Data loss widespread at US government agencies

Loss of personal data at U.S. government agencies is all too common, according to a report released by the House Government Reform Committee.

The PDF is available at Breach Summary Final (3).pdf.

According to the report, which was released Friday, 19 federal agencies have reported at least one loss of personally identifiable information since January 2003. In addition, those agencies don't always know what information has been lost or how many people could be affected because they aren't tracking those losses, the report said.

"For example, the Department of Justice reports that, prior to the May 2006 Veterans Administration data breach, 'the department did not track the content of lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised devices,' " the report stated.

Only a small number of the data breaches were caused by hackers breaking into computer systems, the report said. Most of the data losses stemmed from the theft of laptops, drives and disks, as well as unauthorized use of the information by employees, the report said. Contractors were also responsible for many of the reported breaches, the report said.

The Department of Agriculture told the committee that it had had eight incidents involving the loss or compromise of sensitive personal information since Jan. 1, 2003.